Lasell College Goes Green: Recycled Cooking Oil Helps Heat Local Shelters

Lasell College Goes Green: Recycled Cooking Oil Helps Heat Local Shelters

February 18, 2010

Lasell's "green" initiatives are many and multiplying. One of the College's latest efforts has a dual benefit: supporting a reduced carbon footprint and benefiting the homeless.

Since the fall semester, Lasell College and its food service vendor, Sodexo, have donated used cooking oil from the cafeteria to a program run by Mass Biofuel in Dedham. About 140 gallons of oil are collected every 20 days or so and processed into heating oil for local homeless shelters.

"This is a terrific program that fits into Lasell's environmental efforts, plus it has the added benefit of aiding those who need help the most," said Marc Fournier, Lasell's new Assistant Director of Plant Operations and Sustainability.

The cooking oil is processed into bioheat and then distributed to the Pine Street Inn in Boston and other shelters, according to Mass Biofuel.

According to Mass BioFuel, bioheat has many advantages- it burns cleaner than other heating options, reduces particulate matter (soot), and is biodegradable and renewable, leading to lower emissions. Lasell is one of only a half dozen local colleges participating in the program.

In addition to the cooking oil program, Lasell is also beginning an initiative to reduce electricity consumption in dorms and houses. Through a grant from the John H. and H. Naomi Tomfohrde Foundation, Lasell will install special smart meters that will allow dorm residents to view, track, and monitor their energy consumption.

According to Michael Daley, Environmental Studies Professor at Lasell, these meters will allow students to make environmentally conscious choices about electricity usage in real time because they will be able to analyze usage and then communicate to others in a building how to adjust behaviors to reduce consumption.

"This project will advance student understanding of the relationship between human behavior and the environment, particularly how human behaviors result in the emission of the global warming gas carbon dioxide," said Daley.

Lasell College's environmental sustainability efforts began in earnest over a year ago with the formation of the Green Campus Initiative, which is committed to making the campus a sustainable place to live, work, and study. The College also set a goal to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, and President Michael Alexander has signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

As part of this effort, the College recently hired Fournier to assist the College in its "green" efforts. Since his arrival in the Fall, Fournier has stepped up recycling on campus, obtained donations of recycling containers and other materials, involved the College in a nation-wide recycling competition and found outlets for the College to "recycle" used furniture and other items by donating them to local non-profit organizations, including the Wish Project in Lowell, Mass.

Since the College joined the national recycling competition, Recyclemania, recycling rates have risen from 13.5 percent to 23.2 percent.